Why a Bit of Play May Do You Good

Sometimes I make kids cry.

I don’t mean to. I just don’t like to lose. And so if I have an opportunity to score a goal in soccer, I’m going to take the shot, dang it.

I don’t care if you’re 8 years old.

Ok, I do. No, I’m sorry. No, please, stop crying. I didn’t mean it. I’ll lose next time.

So when is the last time your inner animal came out to play?

One of my husband’s favorite quotes comes from Plato: “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Beau loves to play. You can usually find him throwing Ultimate Frisbee disks on the weekend or tossing footballs into the pool as his boys launch off the jacuzzi, trying to acrobatically catch his passes.

Do you find that to be true? I have observed numerous budding sin issues in my children (and myself) over games of Candyland or Go Fish or, so help me, Settlers of Catan. I have also seen my children exhibit generosity, patience, and mental fortitude during some of these tense game nights.

Sometimes a mom forgets that once upon a time, she was a child too. She loved to play Barbies, and rollerskate, and spy on the neighbor boy, and draw hopscotch squares, and figure out how to make a cat’s cradle from a stretchy dollar store jump rope string.

She forgets because, life.

And she gets tired. And irritable. And angry at nothing specifically, and everything nonspecifically. And she says not now and in a minute and maybe tomorrow because she is so exhausted that she can barely remember to put mascara on.

She has bills she can’t pay.

She has pristine organic food she is too tired to prepare.

She has a bedroom door that she hopes her beloved spouse won’t darken because she has no libido.

She has obligations that drain her soul, yet when she wants to say no, somehow yes is all that comes out.

And she is kind of bitter about it all.

So she hoards her quiet time. Her me time. Her TV time. Instagram. Facebook. Goop. Net-a-Porter.

When women come to me with health concerns, I try to encourage them to add some stress relief to their daily motions. Sometimes, that looks like drawing, or painting, or sewing, or reading.

But there is another one-two punch of stress relief and oxytocin release that can cost you nothing and be pretty darn enjoyable.

image via unsplash by Sven Brandsma

What things delighted you when you were small? Do you remember how exhilarating it was to move your body as a child? You would spin in circles until you fell down. If you ate it while rollerskating, you would get right back up again and try the hill a second time. Now, it seems so inelegant to puff around the backyard like a child, but I will tell you-

it’s kind of amazing.

Do you want to surprise the heck out of your kids? But in a good way? Ask them to play basketball with you. Or field hockey. Take them to the ice rink and strap on a pair of skates yourself.

Don’t worry if you suck. You will remember. And get better. And you will look like a fairy princess in your child’s eyes.

I have a friend who is the best at this, more than anyone I have ever seen. Tiffany has three kids. It is impossible to have a play date with her unless you are willing to play a rowdy game of HORSE, or pit family against family at an empty baseball diamond. She encouraged me to join “Moms’ Swim Team” last year, when our kids were swimming summer recreational league for the coolest team in town. In short, she is a lot of credit via unsplash by Jeremy Bishop

Observing her play with her kids made me want to be more intentional with my own. It is so easy to get lost in being an adult. If I am being honest, I feel like I am only pretending to be an adult much of the time. Who are these children, and why are they calling me Mommy? If I can tap into that piece of my brain that used to not care what people thought about me, then I can experience a bit more contentment in my life. Comparison steals joy, my loves.

At first, when I started back outside with my kids, I was thinking like an adult: crap, why does my belly have to jiggle so much when I run? But after a few months, all I started to care about was working on my digs as my daughter spiked a volleyball at me. And getting a little bit more air as I leapt (dear Barbara, so gracelessly) from the jacuzzi ledge into the pool as I caught the football.

Our womanly health issues are manifold. We are all exhausted and have weight hang-ups and are sometimes hanging by a thread. But isn’t that the best time to say screw it and go dominate an 8-year-old at a soccer shootout?

Just so you know, he got over it quickly, and came back outside and hugged me and said, “Thanks, Mom. For playing with me.”

And my heart couldn’t get any fuller.

Get a little stress relief this week, my dears. Take your kids outside and fly a kite or shoot some baskets or catch a lizard. Do it barefoot, and with shorts on. Get your fresh air and vitamin D and oxytocin from hanging out with cool little people. If you don’t have some, borrow some. If you have an abundance, share them.

Because there is no healing without stress relief. And overthinking your problems never solved anything. The problems will be there tomorrow, and the next day. But they may look a little less intimidating as you meet them with bright eyes and glowing sheen of sweat that only a well-timed soccer goal can bring.

To your childlike health,


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